A troupe of six performers take us on a time-travelling tour through world events in this physical theatre piece in which paper is the only prop. The lead, a young man left in a room with reams of the stuff to let his imagination run wild, shows the way by holding up paper signs to tell us where and when we are. Why we are there, however, remains elusive.
One of the early stops is the trenches of WWI where paper becomes the football that German and English troops kicked about in no man’s land. Then it’s fast forward to see Churchill smoking a big fat paper cigar while flashing the victory sign. There’s no words, save some part-gibberish, Mr Bean English noises, but a lively soundtrack.
Choreography is varied and interesting. The six can fall out of sync, although that looseness is no real detriment in a playful, casually dressed piece like this. Director Gary L Johnson, who also plays the lead, is an ebullient performer, others are seemingly more bashful or perhaps feel overshadowed. Spreading the workload more evenly may have given the piece a smoother feel.
In themselves, the scenes are cleverly thought out, and tease the emotions as well as one can within the bounds of a piece like this. The Fall of the Berlin Wall is counter-intuitively portrayed as a fearful experience, until the performers realise they have a … wait for it… blank sheet to work from, and everything becomes rosey. In reverse, a chirpy New York City commute scene becomes the horror of 9/11. Both scenes are very nicely done.
As a whole though, the scene choice seems arbitrary with no coherent narrative. Genuinely globally significant moments like the above are spliced with historical frippery like the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth, discoveries and inventions (the typewriter, Newton discovering gravity), whole eras (ancient China), space travel, and personal incidents (losing a friend). This seemingly random sequence squanders an opportunity to tell a stronger story.
GLJ Theatre show a lot of verve though, and the piece is visually strong, making full use of the space. A few tweaks to the team dynamics and a stronger thematic thread would just have taken it up a notch.